In Nigeria, the main
militant group in the Niger Delta has called for a ceasefire. The Movement for
the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) made the announcement Thursday in
response to the creation of a government agency to develop the oil-rich region.
reporter Chinedu Offor is on assignment in Nigeria. From the capital, Abuja, he
spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about why MEND has
confidence in the latest government proposal.
to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the government has
recognized that it needs to create an agency that would directly respond to the
development of the Niger Delta in terms of infrastructure, environment and jobs
for the young people. It says it has made these demands for several years
without the government acting on it. And that by doing this, the government has
shown its good faith in sincere efforts to solve the problems of the Niger
Delta," he says.
years or broken promises and failed efforts in the region, why would MEND trust
the government at this point and vice-versa? Offor says, "For one, it is
believed that the ministry was created because of the input of the
vice-president, Jonathan Goodluck, who is from the Niger Delta. The government
also has created what it calls a technical committee to put together concrete
proposals for the development of the Niger Delta. The government has promised
directly to fund this new agency without recourse to other ministries. And it
is believed that someone from that area…will head this new ministry."
says officials believe because local people will make up many of the ministry
employees, corruption will be thwarted. Offor says, "The complaint has often
been that strangers are running the ministries in charge of affairs of the
says because MEND is satisfied with the government's action so far, it has
called a ceasefire and an end to the destruction of oil pipelines and to
hostage taking that has plagued the Delta, with many foreign oil workers being
targeted. While the announcement is expected to sharply reduce abductions,
experts say some small criminal gangs may continue the practice. Another large
militant group, the Niger Delta Volunteer Peoples Force, also supports the
financial figure has been given for the Delta development project, but funding
would come from oil revenues.
Offor says initially the plan probably
will have little effect on reducing vandalism of oil pipelines because locals
steal petrol. Such vandalism often results in fatal fires. He says many of
those stealing petrol are driven to do so by poverty.